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Flammable Placards: Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What does a flammable sign mean?


A flammable sign can be a placard or a label used to mark materials that can easily catch fire. These signs are a category of hazmat visual communicators used when transporting hazardous materials. A flammable sign may be used for a flammable liquid like gasoline as well as for a flammable solid, a spontaneously combustible material, or a substance that may be dangerous when wet.

Q. Which regulatory standards govern the transportation of flammable materials?


The rules and regulations regarding the transportation of flammable materials are covered in Part 172 of Title 49 of the CFR. This part is divided into nine subparts, A through I. These subparts define the scope and applicability of the standards, a tabular classification of the materials and guidance on how to use the table, marking and labeling requirements for shipping these materials, and the use of appropriate placards on trucks and other vehicles transporting these. 

Part 172 also prescribes the requirements for providing and maintaining emergency response information, training hazmat employees about the provisions of the subchapters, and developing and implementing appropriate safety and security plans. 

Q. How does one comply with the federal flammable materials regulations?


Being aware of, understanding, and keeping updated with the federal flammable materials regulations is one of the most important steps to ensure compliance. These regulations define the responsibilities for the shippers and carriers who transport flammable materials, including but not limited to maintaining shipping papers, packaging such materials, marking and placarding vehicles, incident reporting, and so on. 

Furthermore, conducting employee training to create awareness about the risks associated with and handling of flammable materials as well as putting in place emergency response plans are equally important to achieve compliance. This Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration document provides some rather useful information that can help you understand the requirements applicable to your situation.

Q. What are the OSHA requirements for safe storage of flammable liquids?


Rules specific to the storage of flammable liquids are mentioned in the OSHA standard 1910.106. These storage requirements depend on the quantity being stored and whether the storage is indoors or outdoors. Especially constructed indoor or outdoor storage areas or permanent tanks and piping systems built as per requirements mentioned in the OSHA standard are necessary when storing large quantities of flammables. For smaller quantities, approved containers and portable tanks are permitted, and storage vessels for different quantities are listed in the standard. 

The OSHA standard puts restrictions on the quantity of flammable liquid stored in a single area. It specifies how much can be located outside of a storage room or storage cabinet situated indoors in a facility. It also provides details about when storage cabinets may be used and the specifications that these must meet. The specifications vary for metal and wood cabinets and cover the labeling requirements as well.

Q. How do you read a flammable placard?


Flammable placards can be easily identified by their colors. Red hazmat placards are used for flammable materials such as gasoline, paint, acetone, etc. Placards that are half red and half white denote substances like aluminum and lithium alkyls that can burn when exposed to air. Red and white vertical stripes on a hazmat placard signify flammable solids like magnesium and matches. Some flammable placards are also blue in color and identify materials such as sodium, potassium, and calcium that can become flammable upon coming in contact with water. 

Q. What are the various classes of flammable placards?

Flammable placards carry the flame symbol and a single-digit number to communicate the class of materials being transported. Where Class 2 refers to flammable, non-flammable, and toxic gasses, Class 3 denotes flammable and combustible liquids. Flammable solids, spontaneously combustible substances, and materials that may be dangerous when wet fall under Class 4. Certain flammable placards also carry numbers ranging from 1075 to 1993. These are United Nations (UN) numbers that help identify hazardous international cargo traveling in the United States.

Q. What do the flammable placarding requirements include?


The requirements specific to flammable placards are detailed in Subpart F Title 49 Part 172 of the CFR. All flammable placards are required to meet the general specifications laid out in §172.519. These revolve around parameters such as the strength and durability of placards, their design, size, color, and form identification. 

Specifications for flammable placards about different materials are mentioned in individual sections along with reference illustrations. §172.532 covers flammable gas placards, §172.542 flammable placards, §172.544 combustible placards, §172.546 flammable solid placards, §172.547 spontaneously combustible placards, and §172.548 dangerous when wet placards. These sections detail the placard and text color, size, symbols, and wording to be mentioned on respective placards.

Q. Where should be a flammable placard placed on a container?


In most situations, flammable placards are required on all four sides of a transporting vehicle or a bulk carrier. These must be displayed in the square-on-point configuration, at least three inches away from any other marking that may compromise effectiveness. More details and specific requirements may be found in CFR Title 49 Part 172 Subpart F.

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